A one week break seemed to be exactly what the doctor ordered for Stony Brook. Following a 63-48 loss up at New Hampshire, Stony Brook appeared to be back on track heading into halftime up 14 on Vermont.
It wasn’t exactly their best half of basketball, but the Seawolves offense did score 29 points on 32 possessions. Juniors Carson Puriefoy and Jameel Warney shared the scoring lead with eight points. In a half where the Seawolves grabbed 12 offensive rebounds, 29 points almost seemed like a disappointment.
However, the start of the second half could not have started worse for Stony Brook, as they went empty on their first four possessions and Steve Pikiell had seen enough. Fewer than two minutes in to the second half, he called a timeout, but even after that Puriefoy had the ball poked away by Hector Harold. It would take a few minutes, but Pikiell knew that the chance to put away the Catamounts faded with their lackluster performance to start the second half.
“To be honest, I was surprised we had 29 at halftime, so I knew our drought would come because of their defense, but you have to try to play through it,” Pikiell said. “Its just disappointing our defense wasn’t as good in the second half as it was in the first half.”
While it did take a ferocious comeback by Vermont to beat the Seawolves, they shot 72% from the field in the second half, it also took a collapse by Stony Brook where their turnovers and field goals made were even at 8 a piece. In 32 possessions, the Seawolves came up empty on 22 of them, putting up a paltry 0.59 PPP in the half.
Even while Puriefoy scored a team-high 15 points, he had clear problems dealing with Dre Wills defending him. The 6’1″ sophomore stripped the ball straight out of the junior’s hands at one point during the second half. However, what hurt the Seawolves chances the most was Warney’s third foul, drawn with 13:01 left in the game, and forced him to the bench for just under four minutes. In that time Warney was out, Stony Brook failed to score a single point.
“We know Jameel is a big part of what we are trying to do on offense, but we still have to execute when he’s not out on the floor,” Puriefoy said of their struggles. “We still have to get to our spots, set good screens and finish. We were just off in the second half.”
The problem that plagued the Seawolves was finding a third option, whether that be junior Rayshaun McGrew inside who was held to four points, but had nine rebounds, or a perimeter threat that could keep the Catamounts honest. Players not named Puriefoy shot 1 for 10 from three-point range on the night, with Bryan Sekunda converting the only other three-pointer. Players not named Puriefoy or Warney shot a combined 8 for 33 (24%) for the night.
“I think everybody that we have is extremely capable, we just had an off night in the second half,” Puriefoy said of the struggles around he and Warney. “We trust our team, we trust our teammates, me and Jameel know they are going to deliver for us.”
“They’re all good players and we just have to keep feeding them the ball in their spots and they’re going to hit shots. We are a young team and we are just going to keep pushing and we will get there.”
It will be difficult for the Seawolves to generate any offense if they can’t get players around their two top juniors going. Even McGrew, who seemed to be coming into his own earlier in January, has hit a bump where he has struggled to score on the block. So far the freshmen have showed signs of being effective, but none have stepped forward to be consistent options.
Meanwhile, on the Vermont sideline freshman Brandon Hatton delivered a season-high 12 points including a three-pointer to ice the game, and he plus classmates Zach McRoberts and Cam Ward combined for all of the Catamounts 25 bench points. All of that work was surrounded by a dominant second half performance by junior Ethan O’Day, who got the best of Warney scoring 12 of his game-high 17 points in the half where he relentlessly wore down the Seawolves.
“He can drive, he can shoot, but the one time he delivered and I didn’t,” Warney said. “Hats off to him, because he’s a good player, but we’ll get better and we’ll be in that moment again and we’ll see who will be successful.”
Unfortunately for the Seawolves, due to their being swept by the Catamounts, it appears that moment will be destined to be in Burlington if it occurs during the America East Playoffs.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.